a stack of almonds

Date February 4, 2009

I brought a bag of Indulgent Trail Mix back to Colombia with me and sat nibbling absentmindedly at a handful yesterday afternoon while I worked.  As I made my way to a stopping point, I glanced up and giggled out loud.  There above the papers I was marking, was a neat pile of almonds.  


I met her on the first day of school in my first year of teaching.  She shared that trailer we called mobile classrooms with me and came through the short hall to introduce herself.  She wore a black tank top and a skirt that I imagined she’d saved from some time in the 70s, her earrings made a tinkling sound as she walked and her skin was the color of summer. 


I loved her instantly. Maybe it was because she reminded me of Miss Edmunds in A Bridge to Terabithia


Our relationship wasn’t one you’d find described in a bullet pointed list entitled “Common Characteristics of a Quality Friendship”.  We never met for coffee or dinner and we didn’t share deep secrets, but every once in awhile when the day was long or kids were inexplicably wild, we’d meet in that short hall and say curse words or cry.


And every morning she’d shout from her room, “Mornin’, Witt” then wait on my “Hey, Mink” to follow.  I wonder if she knows how much I miss that?


Yes, that Mink she’s something else.  She’s graceful and tactful and she remains the most original woman I’ve ever met.  She sat in staff meetings without being dragged into whining or complaining and retreated quickly to her room when they were done, smiling all the while. 


She told me once, “Witt, don’t take that work home with you.  It’ll sit by the door and you’ll think about it and dread it all weekend.  Just leave it.  Walk away.”  I’ve never felt more liberated than I did for those two days.


Then there was the time that Lexie, my assistant and dearest friend, came in from the parking lot and said, “Mink was in the parking lot!  And she met her husband!  And HE KISSED HER!  Right out there in front of everyone and it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.”  We laughed at that moment like junior high kids who envied the Cutest Couple of the senior class.  I finally fessed up to Mink about it weeks later and she grinned at me and giggled like that’s exactly what they were.


Ah, and there were days that I’d come in from cold, dreary recess duty and find a steaming cup of tea on my desk.  I’d drink that tea, letting it warm me through as I picked the almonds from my trail mix and saved them for that hippie lady next door.  And with each one I set aside, I’d thank God that she was there.  I’d thank Him for the way she never got angry and for the example that she set for me.  I thanked him for her messy desk and for the sing song voice she used as she read A Little Princess to students who were anything but regal.


I still thank God for her.


I have no pictures of us and that makes me sad, but I have an email or two (love you still.  meet you in the hall.  miss you.) hidden away and there at the corner of my desk is a small mound of almonds.


I’m saving them for Mink.


6 Responses to “a stack of almonds”

  1. Summer said:

    Are you writing a book yet? Because a post at a time just isn’t enough. I mean it.

  2. sherry said:

    I agree with Summer! You are amazing! What a wonderful tribute to the teacher next door! I love how you see life, your vocation, and all those involved in your circle! Thanks for sharing with those of us not so gifted with writing our thoughts! Start that book from all of these “musings” that keep friends connected! I bet you make your mamma so proud.

  3. Stuts said:

    You know Summer and Sherry are both right. You are an awesome writer!! But that’s just one of the MANY awesome things you are! Love you Em and am so proud of you!

  4. Lou said:

    I read this yesterday and just loved it. I wanted to meet this women even though I felt like I kind of knew her a little bit now.

  5. me said:

    You left out the part where I told you how hot Mink’s husband is! 🙂

  6. Mr. "C" said:

    I miss Witt and Mink! What a strong pair of teachers! It’s people like these two that I miss the most with retirement! Take care both of you…..